Local Businessman J.T. Burnette Indicted

Local Businessman J.T. Burnette Indicted

A federal grand jury has returned a 47-count superseding indictment against suspended Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Charles Maddox, 51, Tallahassee political consultant Janice Paige Carter-Smith, 54, and John Thomas Burnette, 42, all of Tallahassee, Florida. 

See 75-page indictment here.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S.  Attorney Lawrence Keefe of the Northern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Rachel Rojas of the FBI’s Jacksonville Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Mary Hammond of the IRS  Criminal Investigation (CI) Tampa Field Office made the announcement.

In December 2018, a federal grand jury charged Maddox and Carter-Smith in a 44-count indictment for conspiring to operate a racketeering enterprise that engaged in acts of bank fraud, extortion, honest-services fraud and bribery.  That indictment also charged Maddox and Carter-Smith with substantive counts of bank fraud, false statements to financial institutions, extortion, honest-services fraud, use of interstate facilities to facilitate bribery, false statements to federal officers, conspiracy to interfere with the lawful function of the IRS and filing false tax returns.  The superseding indictment adds Burnette as a defendant and charges him with participating in the racketeering conspiracy and extortion, honest services mail fraud, the use of facilities in interstate commerce to facilitate bribery and making false statements to federal officers.

Burnette’s initial appearance is scheduled for today at the U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee. The trial of this case has been scheduled for Nov. 4, 2019.

More specifically, the December 2018 indictment alleges that Maddox and Carter-Smith conspired to operate two companies, Governance Inc. and Governance Services LLC, as one entity they referred to as “Governance.”  Governance was allegedly part of a racketeering enterprise which extorted money and accepted bribes from Governance clients under color of Maddox’s office and through fear of the economic harm which Maddox could inflict in his position as an influential City Commissioner.  Maddox allegedly agreed to and voted on matters and exerted influence on City employees to take actions that benefitted the businesses that paid Maddox and Carter-Smith through Governance.  Additionally, Maddox and Carter-Smith allegedly defrauded a bank of more than $250,000 through two fraudulent short sales of real property, lied to federal agents about Governance and other matters and violated federal tax laws by conspiring to interfere with the IRS and filing false tax returns.

The superseding indictment adds charges that Burnette participated with Maddox and Carter-Smith in extorting representatives of a company seeking to develop properties in Tallahassee to pay money to Maddox through Governance in exchange for Maddox’s assistance as a public official in the proposed projects.  Further, it is alleged that Burnette arranged the logistics of bribe payments of $10,000 per month to Maddox through Governance, and told the company representatives that Maddox wanted them to deal only with Burnette.  Additionally, the superseding indictment alleges that when Maddox and Burnette traveled to Las Vegas (Nevada) with the company representatives paying for all expenses, Maddox and Burnette told the company representatives about Maddox threatening to destroy a former client’s business deals if the former client did not pay Maddox.  The superseding indictment further alleges that at subsequent meetings, when asked by company representatives about stopping the bribe payments to Maddox, Burnette made various extortionate statements to the representatives as to what actions Maddox would take to cause economic harm to the company if they stopped making the $10,000 monthly payments to Maddox.  The superseding indictment further alleges that Burnette made false statements to the FBI concerning the name of the firm that Carter-Smith had, his knowledge of the company making payments to Maddox through Governance, and the content of conversations that Maddox had with company representatives.

An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the IRS-CI.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Simon J. Cataldo and Peter M. Nothstein of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen M. Kunz, Gary Milligan and Andrew J. Grogan of the Northern District of Florida.

See 75-page indictment here.

22 Responses to "Local Businessman J.T. Burnette Indicted"

  1. Time to link two of your favorite stories: the Maddox/Burnette indictment and the Killearn golf course rezoning and development. Follow Barton Tuck’s money.

    1. Thanks AL and Fore in bringing up the subject of the Killearn (JT Burnette-planned) condo development and the Killearn Country Club. Like many Tallahassee citizens, I’m very happy to see at least some (hopefully more) of our local corrupt players indicted – but as a Killearn resident, I also wonder what this means for the golf course and any possible planned development there:
      Does the planned development just get dropped and forgotten?
      Does another developer pick up where Burnette “left off”?
      Are there other dirty players in Tallahassee who will get involved and change/expand the former Burnette project?

  2. I know the Killearn purchase is considered small potatoes but I wonder if there are other development projects that will be under scrutiny. If you read the TD article, you get the sense that Burnette was paying Maddox for all dealings. The whole town should be very concerned about the rezoning of Killearn Coubtry Club— that is expected to expand…

  3. I still get confused by this scheme. How does one commissioner determine the outcome of a project? Or get it approved? Or guarantee an approval? There are five commissioner’s that would have been voting for the projects to receive approval, right?
    Did Maddox have that much influence over the other commissioner’s?

    1. Yes he did, and staff too. Many, many people associated with Maddox are squirming. And this, my friends, is why Tallahassee is so far behind. Good people have been kept out of the process for many years. Hell, Steve Stewart made a strong effort to defeat Maddox but he too ran into the wall of supporters that had been doing business with Scott for too long. Developers had already paid him, the Chamber was holding his buddy JT Burnette out as a role model and even giving awards to him, thus, further enabling a ring of corruption.

      The entire community of Tallahassee has been sick for a long, long time. These indictments are like the long overdue antibiotic. Hopefully the indictments will keep coming. We need a restart so that we can move forward.

      1. Excellent response! Yes Maddox’s fan club, proxies, loyal supporters are squirming and you hear no spin narrative for neither of them, only crickets! Pay to play schemes never work in small town governments. Stay tuned!

    2. And remember that Maddox and Gillum were absolutely instrumental in appointing and hand selecting (via a NATIONWIDE search – yeah right) GOAD – City Manager; who put BARBER in as Deputy City Manager and JACKSON in as City Attorney – that negotiated Fernandez’s and Tadro’s exit/severance packets and have these clowns on retainer for the City’s litigation…..; FBI – see the Maddox, Fernandez, Gillum tentacles….; and they did it right under everyone’s noses? The patented ‘Maddox maneuver’.

      1. Exactly. And there is another person at City Hall who pulls all the strings for development. – Wayne Tedder. If you want anything from growth management, planning, the CRA, or the City Manager, Tedder is the power broker. Hand picked by Fernandez, Tedder was very close to Maddox. He used to brag about his influence over the Commissioners and Goad, but he is much quieter now. Is he next?

        1. FBI – let the smackdowned City Employees testify and put these pieces of puzzle together and supply sworn testimony.

          The only fix – demonstrated again and again – to fix a deeply corrupted government- is to remove the all the top corrupt players. Take their retirement and make them pay back their last 5+ years of corrupted salary. Problem solved.

  4. I hope this is just the start of an avalanche of indictments to come.
    Perhaps including a few vocal politicians with ambitions far beyond Tallahassee.

      1. I have a new respect for John Morgan.

        I hope the news follows every penny of that leftover 3 million dollars in Andrew Gillum’s campaign account.

        I guess Andrew Gillum won’t be hiring John Morgan to defend him if / when indicted by the grand jury.

  5. The way this went worked is local developers were required a consulting or lobbying fee to Maddox, et al, in order to have pending projects approved by the City Commission. It looks like the developer simply hired a lobbyist when it’s done like this, when in fact it’s a shameless shakedown, because failure to pay that fee meant your project languished in bureaucratic processes, was continuously left off the agenda, or was voted down. It gave Maddox and his cronies preemptive veto power over developers. Not about ideology, just about the money.

  6. What seems to get “lost” in all this is the fact that most companies were willing to pay the $ like it is a routine cost of doing business in any community.

    I hope some of the parties interviewed who were told to pay money, and did, were specifically asked in what other cities/states have you had to pay $ under similar arrangements? And, hopefully, there is some followup.

    There seems to be lots of gray areas when it comes to brib, er, lobbying…

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